The Feast of Weeks/'Pentecost'
Sabbath Day Sermon, 18 May 2002
Brethren and sisters, I welcome you to the second day of Shavu'ot, known also as the Feast of Weeks or 'Pentecost', the solo summer festival of the sacred calendar. On this day, two very important events took place. The first was the giving of the Torah, Teaching or Law on Mount Sinai; and the second, was the pouring out of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) upon the Body of Messiah in Jerusalem. The first marked the beginning of Old Covenant Israel and the second the beginning of New Covenant Israel, the Church or Messianic Community of the Redeemed. Two communities were born - the first an incomplete one, the second a complete one - the first a shadow, the second the fullness of the light which retrospectively cast that shadow - the first in about the year 1446 BC, the second probably around the year 33 AD.
And yet neither of the two communities was made 'complete' on the days of Shavu'ot in 1446 BC and 33 AD. The first community of Israelites were given a Law engraved on stone and the second a Law which from that day would commence a process by which it would become entirely written on their hearts by the pen of the Ruach (Spirit). As we know, the first community or nation was a failure. It was disobedient, rebelled, and was sent into a number of exiles by Assyria, Babylonia and Rome. Shortly after the second community was created on the Day of 'Pentecost', the first community was destroyed and scattered forever across the face of the earth. Shavu'ot, Weeks or 'Pentecost' is therefore another one of those 'new beginnings'.
What a contrast those two events were! The first was marked by thunderings from a dark cloud that rested upon an austere mountain in a barren desert landscape, instilling fear in a people who were never more than a couple of steps away from rebellion because of the deeply ingrained pagan roots acquired through years of slavery in Egypt. The second was marked by an outburst of great simcha (joy) and liberation characterised by an extraordinary gift that nobody had ever seen before - the ability to speak foreign languages supernaturally so that the multilingual gathering in that place in Jerusalem could all understand one another. In the first story, the giving of the Torah (Law) on Mount Sinai represented the formal break with an old way of life in a foreign land (Egypt) darkened by pagan customs. In the second story, the receiving of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) marked the formal end of the Old Covenant and the commencement of a New one. And though in a way the first Israelites broke with Egypt after packing up their things and leaving their homes to make their way supernaturally across the Red Sea - which was their deliverance or salvation - it was not until Sinai that they began to face in a new direction towards a new home (Canaan) and a new way of living (Torah). Similarly, though the event of Golgotha was, and is, the point at which the sinner who places his trust in the blood of Messiah is delivered or saved from the consequences of sin, it is not until he has received the outpouring if the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) at his own personal 'Pentecost' that he faces the heavenly Canaan or the New Jerusalem.
Whenever Christians/Messianics think of Pentecost they usually recall the fact that tongues of fire appeared on the believers' heads and they began to speak in 'tongues'. Go to any Pentecostal or Charismatic Church and they will have much to say on this event which supposedly forms the foundation for their denomination, since that is the name by which they chose to be identified. They, and probably the vast majority of evangelical Christians, believe that it was on the Day of 'Pentecost' that the 'Church' was first 'started'. And in a way it was. It was certainly 'activated' or endowed with the power by which it would be able to evangelise the world. But in another way it was not. For the Church or Messianic Community could, in actual fact, be said to have 'begun' in a series of stages beginning from the first day that Yah'shua (Jesus) set out around His 30th birthday and started calling people to repent and announcing the nearness of the Kingdom of Heaven. The moment that people started listening and responding to that divine Voice, a nucleus of a community was being formed which we may compare to a conception, like the moment a woman first gets pregnant. From the moment that people first started listening and believing in the Son of Elohim (God), a conceptus was formed in each that began to grow.
Our life as believers begins by first hearing the Davar (Word) and believing. Yah'shua (Jesus) reminded us, though, that this was, and is, a very dangerous time for us. He graphically illustrates the point by telling the parable of the sower and of the different kinds of ground on which the seed fell. Most of it was lost, destroyed by birds, shallow ground, a lack of soil, and so forth. Satan can cause us to doubt. Our infant testimony can be destroyed by the cares of the world unless we nourish it. We can get carried away by enthusiasm and fail to cultivate depth by disregarding the mitzvot (commandments). Appropriately, Shavu'ot comes at a time when the agricultural cycle is in full swing. The farmers are tilling their fields, crops are appearing. We are busy gardening. Day after day we toil in our gardens mowing grass and weeding beds. And we know that if we become lazy or indifferent, our lawns will turn into grassy jungles and our flower beds into a mass of weeds.
And so it is in the period before Shavu'ot we are particularly vulnerable. The new believer must take care and must be cared for by older believers. Many dangers face him. Just as pregnant mothers can have abortions - planned or unplanned - so our young and growing relationship with Messiah can be prematurely aborted by any number of things. Moreover, the local congregation in which a new believer finds him- or herself must understand that, like a pregnant mother, they are responsible for looking after the new believer. The dependence a young Christian/Messianic has on the Body is being set especially at this point. As an unborn child bonds with its mother because of the intimacy of being within her, so the new believer, who may not know Messiah very well in the beginning, is very dependent on a loving, protecting and nurturing local congregation which can reveal the love and care of Messiah to him. Not until the New Birth can he strike out more confidently and strongly in his own endowment.
The life of an unborn child consists physically of warmth (a constant temperature in the womb), darkness (ignorance) and the constant reassuring beat of the mother's heart (the care of the local assembly). It is well to remember that new believers are dependent on these things in order to grow - constancy of kindness and the constant heartbeat of a protecting and nurturing people filled with ahavah (love). Without these things he will grow up spiritually deformed.
Shavu'ot represents the end of his gestation period and his sudden and perhaps even violent birth into a totally new world. Child birth is not easy and can also be dangerous. But once accomplished, it is a time of great simcha (joy). The mode of nourishment changes too. Though the mother continues to love and nourish, an umbilical cord is exchanged for breast milk. Instead of the constant, uninterrupted feeding across the placenta, now it is periodical, as it is needed. Baby cries when he wants feeding. He feels the pangs of hunger, something he never knew in the womb because everything was one long continuous, uninterrupted supply.
The new birth, which 'Pentecost' brings, requires regular breast-feeding at the Davar Elohim (Word of God). It brings with it a hunger and a thirst for the emet (truth). Initially, much of the teaching will be received from the Pastor, Elders and Teachers in the local congregation but progressively the growing believer becomes weaned from dependency on others to a fully independent relationship in Messiah through diligent Bible study and prayer. The mistake is often made in our egocentric society in which we convince ourselves that we need no help from others who are experienced in the Davar (Word) and we can do it alone. Not surprisingly, the theologies of the vast number of 'solo-Christians' is usually unbalanced and bizarre. We need to learn from each other - our knowledge of the Davar (Word) and our experiences with Yahweh and with chayim (life). We all, as a result of 'Pentecost', become mutual nourishers. We grow together.
As you look at what happened on the first New Covenant Shavu'ot you see that this is so, and necessarily so. Judahites were gathered from all parts of the Roman Empire and all were conversant in the local languages and dialects of those parts of the Empire from which they came. Since the Tower of Babel, the one spoken language of the earth's inhabitants was deliberately confused by Yahweh so that men, whose hearts had grown evil, would disperse before they could do unspeakable harm to themselves and to others. They scattered across the face of the globe, away from the human heartland of Mesopotamia, to colonise the rest of the earth following the flood, each group speaking their own language. From that time onwards we have had to get education in various languages so that we can understand others from different lands.
On the Day of 'Pentecost' something extraordinarily happened. The need for a linguistic education was removed by the supernatural ability to speak in foreign languages not learned at school or college. People were amazed. Many converted because of this supernatural sign of Yahweh's power. Parting the elements at the Dead Sea was dramatic but this was an external miracle. The miracle at 'Pentecost' was an internal one - the minds of men and women were being 'parted', as it were, to allow them to say incredible things. On the Day of 'Pentecost' Yahweh was making a statement - He was saying that the one language that was undone at Babel would eventually become one language again when people stop loving evil and start cleaving to righteousness. He did not restore a single language in Jerusalem in 33 AD but gave notice that it would happen one day. For now, though, we are to retain our several languages but be given the ability to speak foreign languages supernaturally whenever there is an urgent need to preach the Besorah (Gospel) to those who cannot understand our own tongues.
Shavu'ot is all about language. Not the gibberish one hears in charismatic meetings, but about being understood. Yahweh communicated His Torah at Sinai to Moses in the 'Ten Words' or Ten Commandments by means of written language. Several years later, believed by many to have been about 1406 BC, Moses began to write down the Pentateuch - the first five Books of Moses from Genesis to Deuteronomy, and from that time onwards there has been a growing record of Elohim's (God's) dealings with mankind culminating in the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament). The Bible as we have it ceased being added to probably around 95 AD when the apostle John wrote his third and last epistle.
By the time Yah'shua (Jesus) came to earth there was already a very elaborate system of Scripture preservation and teaching presided over by a class of people known as Scribes or Torah-teachers. Thanks to them and their predecessors, the Tanakh or Old Testament was faithfully preserved over the centuries. A strong tradition of faithfulness to the written Word of Yahweh developed over the centuries as perhaps best exemplified by the Bereans who diligently searched the Davar Elohim (Word of God) to see if what the apostle Paul was teaching agreed with prophecy. And this tradition has very much been taken over by evangelical Christians and Messianics. This faithfulness to the written Davar (Word) is very important indeed and the Evangelicals have been right in stressing it.
However, there are always problems with written Scripture. For one thing, language evolves. The meaning of words changes. Even within the period in which the Bible was written, spanning as it does some 3,500 years, words have changed. The word 'salvation' in the Tanakh (Old Testament), for example, is not quite the same as that which is used in the New. As a result there have been disagreements of interpretation which in part has led to the terrible denominational divisions that exist in Christendom today. True, much is the result of disobedience to the mitzvot (commandments) and a resultant withdrawal of the Ruach (Spirit) but equally much division is the result, not of wilful disobedience, but because of the genuine problems caused by changing language and ways of thinking.
As I said, the Day of 'Pentecost' was a signal of the beginning of a new work. The navi (prophet) Jeremiah, as we all know, prophesied a day when the Torah would be written on the medium of men's hearts by the invisible action of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). New Covenant Shavu'ot marks, therefore, a gradual moving into a realm which, whilst not transcending Scripture, makes it so comprehensible that men and women eventually no longer need teachers in the future because all will know Elohim (God). This process was begun on the Day of 'Pentecost'. Those first believers were anointed by tongues of flame, representing a new source of spiritual life, the Ruach (Spirit) Herself, and so long as the Ruach (Spirit) rested on them, Yahweh would be their instructor.
Unfortunately, there are many naïve Christians and Messianics who 'assume' that they have the fullness of the Holy Spirit and either no longer need Scripture or who feel that every mental and emotional impulse they experience is the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). They are in denial as to the influence of the carnal man and Satan. I know some Christians and Messianics who sincerely believe the delusion that they no longer need to be taught by anyone because, they claim, the Torah is fully written on their hearts. The fact that they quarrel with each other over the meaning of Scripture and can't even understand some of the elementary, basic truths of Scripture is a dire warning not to be over-confident or too presumptuous. The complete unity of Ruach (Spirit) will not occur until Messiah returns but it will move rapidly in that direction in the end-times we have now entered. During the Millennium, or perhaps at the end of it, I believe we shall all speak one language, which will be celebrated in a Third Shavu'ot ('Pentecost'), a fulfilment of the Second Shavu'ot experienced by the first apostles and assembled believers when they supernaturally started speaking each other's languages.
Satan also is moving towards a world where one language is spoken and there is no doubt that English is to be the language of the One World Order and of the Antimessiah/Antichrist system as a whole. As a result, he has gone to great lengths to corrupt it, especially in the last century, so that words are rapidly becoming devoid of meaning. We see it in the language of political correctness employed first by the communists and now by the liberal hierarchs, both of whom refer to themselves as promoters of 'peace'. Today we are becoming accustomed to hear of Christianity as a religion of 'hate' because of its claim to exclusive emet (truth). The horrible vision of George Orwell in his novel, 1984, is being fulfilled, even if somewhat later than he supposed. English is being perverted into a language of doublespeak to further the diabolical ends of the devil and his evil one world religion.
It can be no accident, therefore, that Christendom is splitting further and further as language loses its conciseness. 'Love' has come to mean to tolerate anyone and any philosophy even if it is antichrist. How different from the ahavah or agapé love taught by Yah'shua (Jesus).
I was talking with a member of my family the other day and she wondered whether the Bible is deliberately vague about some things to encourage us to dig deeper and find out for ourselves. Certainly I think there is a strong element of truth in that assertion. But the Bible also teaches that it cannot be understood except by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), and since our endowment by the Ruach (Spirit) is usually gradual (though there are times when we are certainly blessed by quantum leaps of new understanding to meet urgent needs in the Body), it follows that there will always be different levels of understanding, each preceding level being an approximation or simplification of the one above it.
This has most certainly been our experience in this ministry. We have discovered (and I am sure others have too) that the more the Ruach (Spirit) writes on our hearts, the less need there is for words. We have found, often to the great frustration of others, that an inner 'knowing' replaces the need to dissect and cut apart Scripture - not because we feel that Scripture should not be thus studied, but because once the essence or emet (truth) which lies behind words and concepts has been revealed, embraced and tested, there is simply no need to continually pour over concordances and lexicons.
For the sake of others who are still wrestling with the letter of Scripture we naturally strive to explain as best we can using the limited function called language, whether it be to show Talmudic Jews that Yah'shua (Jesus) is truly the Messiah who saves from sin, or to denominational Christians and Messianics who are struggling over various doctrinal issues like tongues, the Godhead, stewardship, or whatever. And I am sure that all of you who 'know' by the Ruach (Spirit) have been accused of being 'haughty' or 'arrogant' because they cannot disturb or unseat that inner 'knowing' you have. How, for instance, do you tell a Talmudist, who rejects Yah'shua (Jesus) using a set of preselected (and often twisted) scriptures that you have seen the power of Messiah at work transforming souls and driving out demons? Not untypically you will be accused by them of dabbling in witchcraft. They are stuck on one level and you are on another. And no matter how hard you reach down to theirs to teach them, they will stubbornly refuse to listen and accuse you of being overbearing.
Shavu'ot has, in its New Covenant setting, the purpose of revealing a totally new perspective which comes from an anointing of the Ruach (Spirit). It is beyond words because it operates within Yahweh's sovereign grace and our willingness to yield to it and be taught by it. Moreover, it is not given in one day. Like it or not, we all of us have to move through a gradual process, sometimes punctuated by big leaps, of moving our heads away from exoteric engraved tablets of stone (where out feet are supposed to rest) and into the more esoteric world of the Ruach (Spirit). It can't be rushed (for that leads to the kinds of disastrous errors we are seeing in the charismatic movement and elsewhere) and it can't be resisted (for that leads to spiritual atrophy and fossilisation such as we see in some of the older 'orthodox' churches).
Last week I said that our mission was to build strong nuclear families and to build the family of Messiah. But in order to do that we have to move slowly move into a new mindframe that, whilst not negating rationalism, definitely makes it subservient to a higher principle which comes from living the in the spirit of Torah. People, as I said, get very frustrated and sometimes angry with us because we won't budge on certain issues. And whilst many of our conclusions may be said to be provisional in which we are willing to be taught further, others are so burned into our hearts by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) that we could never yield on them. We ask those who feel frustrated with us on particularly these issues to be patient with us, as we try to be patient with you. Time will reveal the emet (truth).
On the first New Covenant Shavu'ot 3,000 souls were saved. This salvation came about not as a result of theological study of Scripture but as a result of the power of the Ruach (Spirit). All those present on the New Covenant Day of 'Pentecost' were almost certainly Torah-observant, meaning they had a foundation on which to be receptive to the new work that Yahweh was doing. That ethical and moral foundation is important and remains. To be anointed with the Ruach (Spirit) without that foundation results in short-lived revivals which, though truly wonderful at the time, cannot sustain the Ruach (Spirit) for long. Torah-obedience is the vessel that permits the New Birth to be consolidated and not dispersed.
I have seen so many believers start promisingly and then go off the rails because of a weak or faulty foundation. The soil of the soul must be diligently prepared by the cultivating plough which is Yahweh's Law. And that Law (Torah) will not be dispensed with until perfection has been attained, whether in this world or the next. New Covenant Shavu'ot or 'Pentecost' is under girded by Torah and the Atonement of Messiah. That is why it is preceded by Passover (Pesach), Chag haMatzah (Unleavened Bread) and Yom haBikkurim (Firstfruits). There is a process to be followed to get the desired heavenly results. The old man or woman has first to die, like the seed falling into the ground and dying, and be birthed in the dark of struggle of the soul, until the shoot of the new life in Messiah breaks forth into the light of understanding. Our roots must continue to go down as our stems shoot upwards. The Christian/Messianic life is a bi-directional one - down deep into Torah and up into the grace of Yahweh's Ruach (Spirit).
May you be blessed this Shavu'ot (Pentecost) with an anointing of grace. Amen.
This page was created on 14 May 2002
Last updated on 28 July 2016
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